Skip to main content

Meet the Grads: Kiana McCutcheon

Kiana McCutcheon stands in the woods, looking off to the right

As a design studies major at West Virginia University, Kiana McCutcheon discovered one of the best aspects of attending a land-grant institution – gaining practical skills and knowledge to help improve communities.

“I was taught about the real-world implications of design,” she said. “I was taught how it can build up or tear down communities, and I wanted to know how to improve the lives of others, not just make things look better.”

A May 2021 graduate, McCutcheon is a member of the classes being honored during commencement ceremonies May 15-16. The Martinsburg, West Virginia, native is currently a freelance marketing consultant who helps small businesses with brand management and other creative services.

“This year, I plan to start my own online marketing business and begin to co-write journals and create materials about navigating life with a chronic illness.
What has been your most meaningful experience at WVU?
My most meaningful experience at WVU was in my Intro to Design class my freshman year. In that class, I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was surrounded by other creative people who saw the world differently and it fed my curiosity. This class is also where I met my professor, Craig Nelson, who opened my eyes to the world of design and taught me that my differences were my strengths.

If you could trade places with one person for a day, who would it be and why?
I would want to trade places with David Kelley because I then would have accesses to all his work, information, and the creative environment at IDEO where the best design thinkers are coming up with ways to make life better for people. 

What is one thing you would have done differently during college?
I wish I would have taken more opportunities to pursue interests beyond the classroom and invested more in others around me. 

What one piece of advice would you share with future students?
The advice I would give future students would be to figure out how to enjoy the process. You can get so fixed on the end goal of just getting things over with or working hard to get that grade you want. These things aren’t necessarily bad, but you are missing out. If you enjoy what you are learning and can find value in the process of becoming a smarter, more capable version of yourself, you gain so much more and it is more satisfying.  

Your final year of college obviously didn’t go as planned. How did you stay focused? What lessons did you learn?
Having all my classes online made it a bit harder to understand content, communicate with others, and have the motivation give my assignments the usual attention. I learned that time management was key. Organizing all my classes in a planner to keep track of assignments and deadlines helped me with becoming more disciplined. I also learned to get comfortable with reaching out for help and clarification from instructors through the online platforms they had available.